Name: Roberta Ronique Bell #08116-067
DOB: Sept. 4, 1971
Marital Status: N/A
Children: Three children – 2 girls and boy. Ashley, Gerrid, and Jazzmin
Two granddaughters – Riley and Riyan
State from: Born in Rockford, Il – moved to PA at 14
Tried: in PA
Charge: Conspiracy, Intimidation of a Witness, (see Truthout article below for more details)
Sentence: Life plus consecutive 10 years
Served: 24+ years
Priors: None, Roberta was tried on this case and acquitted on all counts in State court
Prison Conduct: Exemplary
Clemency status: Pending Case # C184602
Supporters: Former employer, attorney Joanne Kehr, Roberta’s children and extended family, CAN-DO Foundation, Malik King, Familes for Justice as Healing, the LOHM, Crack Open the Door,
Prison Address: Roberta Bell #08116-067, FCI Dublin 5701 8th St. Dublin, CA 94568
Media: Roberta Bell’s story featured in Truthout on 12/16/2016: A Desperate Hope for Clemency: Mothers in Federal Prison Pin Hopes on Obama
We have researched Robert’s case and believe she is innocent of murder. Please read letter by Joanne Kehr.
Special circumstances – Roberta’s co-defendant who actually committed the crime is now free. Per Roberta: It’s a daily struggle to count my days of incarceration and my codefendant’s days of freedom. My codefendant was granted a judgment of acquittal post-conviction and is at home. The judge felt as though I may be entitled to the same relief, but he didn’t have jurisdiction over me. He said I had to file in the Northern District of CA. Although I may be entitled to it, I have to fight for it, because I am in a prison in CA. My codefendant had the benefit of being housed in the 3rd Circuit jurisdiction. There are no female institutions in the 3rd Circuit so I would never be able to file there. I keep telling myself that it won’t be much longer, but the reality is I am being punished for the actions of another and he is free.
Roberta’s former employer – attorney Joanne Kehr has written an extensive letter to President Obama about Roberta’s tragic life and abuse she suffered at the hands of her relatives. Still, she was the most reliable, dependable and trustworthy employee Joanne claims she (and another attorney) had. Read Joannes-support-letter-for-roberta-bell and details about her up-bringing.
Jun 2009 – May 2012 ACE Accounting Instructor (262 hours)
2013 – Present FCI Dublin Education VT Business Aide/Clerk
* Perform clerk duties for many departments in the institution
* Instruct/Tutor following classes:
Basic Computer – 100+ hours
Microsoft Excel – 1300+ hours
Accounting – 96+ hours
1999 – 2012 UNICOR Lead Business Office Clerk
* Process inmate payroll and bonuses
* Prepared Monthly Reports
1997 – 1999 UNICOR Lead QA Inspector/Clerk
* Processed invoices and shipping orders (CBLs and FedEx)
* Issued final QA Stamp on all orders shipped (2M+)
RE-ENTRY & VOLUNTEER PROGRAMMING
Since arriving at FCI Dublin in March 2013, I have volunteered or been called on to help with many events and activities. A lot of them don’t show up in the Sentry data, but they are just as important and I would like to have them be acknowledged as well.
With regards the list below, in addition to attending/participating I have contributed on one or more of the following ways: written and/or co-written proposals; helped brainstorm and plan, coordinate and organize; created flyers and posters to generate interest; created banners; help select themes, design decor, gather artists and painters, build props; create program booklets; set-up/clean-up, and float wherever help is needed.
Jul 2018 Re-Entry Affairs – Foundations Program: One Community Project
Foundations is a new program geared towards building/contributing to the community, starting here. Having been incarcerated too long I didn’t qualify to be in the program. I was asked for input/ideas and I volunteered to help put together a huge quilt made of squares by some of the women on the compound. It symbolizes what they would like to take back to their community or things that they would like to see happen in their communities. The quilt will be donated to a local women’s and children’s shelter.
Apr 2018 Re-Entry Affairs Class – Women’s Empowerment Workshop Pt. II
Mar 2018 Re-Entry Affairs Class – Women’s Empowerment Workshop Pt. I
Mar 2018 Re-Entry Affairs Class – Rebuilding Relationships
Feb 2018 Re-Entry Affairs Class – You & Your Values
Feb 2018 Re-Entry Affairs Class – Dealing with Difficult People
Feb 2018 Re-Entry Affairs Class – Finding Your Balance
Feb 2018 Stanford Law Graduate Panel – I was one of three women asked to speak and share my story. I did my best to convey to them that it would help if in their roles as future prosecutors they would look beyond the win/loss column and see that every case is not the same. Sometimes people’s life experiences warrant taking into consideration.
Jan 2018 Creating a Life Plan Workshop: Malik Wade, formerly incarcerated who turned his life around and is now a youth mentor and Author of the book “Pressure”
Jan 2018 Guest Speaker: Dana Cheatum, Motivational Speaker and Certified Life Coach
Nov 2017 Guest Speaker: Dana Cheatum, Motivational Speaker and Certified Life Coach. After 26 years in prison she enlightens us about her journey and transformation.
Jun 2017 Seminar: The Law of Attraction & The Power of Positive Thinking
Jun 2017 Domestic Violence & Human Trafficking Program
Feb 2017 Seminar: Guest Speaker – Anthony Williams, Motivational & Transformational Life Coach.
Dec 2016 Seminar: Guest Speaker – Caramad Conley, A man wrongly convicted and vindicated nearly 20 years later.
Oct 2016 Health Fair
Jul 2016 Stop the Abuse – Class on domestic abuse and how to stop the cycle
Jul 2016 Defy Ventures – Graduated from months long Entrepreneurial Training Program. I received a certification from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business in Career Readiness. I also received other awards and certificates.
Jun 2016 “Open Letter to My Fatherless Daughters” – Play was to be performed by local theater group
**The play was canceled at the last minute, by the theater. However, all of the prep work was still done.
Apr 2016 Mission Possible: The Journey Home – 1st National Re-Entry Month Event
My role: Created flyers and program booklets; attended
Apr 2016 Tracy Helton Mitchell – Award Winning Author of “The Big Fix” 1st National Re-entry Month Guest Speaker
My role: Helped organize, promote, created flyers, posters, and program; attended
Apr 2016 U.S. Probation Offender Panel – 1st National Re-Entry Month Event
My role: Helped organize, promote, create flyers and order of service, ran PowerPoint, set up
Apr 2016 Root & Rebound – 1st National Re-Entry Month Event
My role: Helped organize, promote, set-up; attended
Mar 2016 Conflict Resolution Class
My role: Helped organize, created flyers, and spreadsheets for tracking, set-up; participated
Nov 2015 – “The Tempest” – Play performed by local theater group
My role: Helped organize and play, promote, created flyers, set-up; attended
Oct 2015 Domestic Violence & Human Trafficking Program
My role: Created the flyers, posters, invitations for outside guests and program booklets; set-up
Sep 2015 Domestic Violence Awareness Program for RDAP (Residential Drug Abuse Program)
My role: Wrote the proposal, created the flyers, posters, program booklet; presentation on my life
May 2015 – 2016 Women’s Empowerment Program for RDAP
My role: Wrote the proposal, created the flyers, posters, program booklets, set-up
2015 – 2018 Camp Suzanne
Children are brought to the institution visiting room for five days (Mon-Fri) to spend time with their mothers
My role: Chose the theme and design decor, help set up, create flyers, and plan games and activities for the mothers and their children
Nov 2014 Napoleon Kaufman Motivational Guest Speaker Event
My role: Created the flyers and posters, order of service, helped set up; attended
Nov 2014 Iyanla Vanzant “Fix My Life” Motivational Guest Speaker Event
My role: Created the flyers and programs to generate interest and participation, helped set up. Spoke openly with Ms. Vanzant, this experience helped me to open up about my life, forgive, re-evaluate and process my relationships
2014 – 2018 Children’s Day Events
Three or four times a year, during Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Summer, etc. there are special visiting days for mother’s to spend one-on-one time bonding with their children
My role: Choose the themes, design the decor, and create the flyers, and play games and activities for the mothers and their children. I am also among the few select inmates that actually get to volunteer in the Children’s Center in the visiting room to help with activities and play with the children.
2014 – 2018 Get on the Bus
Program designed to bring families across the state of CA together. Bus picks up children and chaperones and brings them to institution to visit.
My role: Choose the theme, design the decor, create flyers, and plan games and activities for the mothers and their children
Nov 2013 – 2017 Volunteer Appreciation Dinner
Event designed to bring in all of the outside volunteers that conduct classes and programs for the inmate population. The inmates show appreciation by serving the volunteers dinner, entertaining, and sharing inspirational stories. **Although they stopped having the dinner/brunch at the FCI, I still help with the decorations and create the invitations.
Jun 2013 LGBT Awareness Color Walk/Run
My role: Wrote the program proposal to acknowledge the official month designated by President Obama for LGBT equality. It was the first time this was ever done in the BOP
Jun 2013 Lupus Awareness Walk
My role: Prepared the proposal and flyers; helped decorate and setup, coordinated activities at the walk.
Voluntarily, either wrote or co-wrote proposals for special programs in the recreation department, for the FCI and the Camp, such as cultural and holidays events. I help plan and organize the programs and make sure that there are activities for everybody, including the elderly and wheel-chair bound. I create the flyers and posters to generate interest and participation; and gather artists and painters to bring ideas to life. List of programs includes but not limited to:
MLK Jr. Day
Black History Month
Cinco de Mayo
Hawaiian Pacific Islander Month
Hispanic Heritage Month
Developed an idea to encourage the inmate population to get involved and give back to the community. Seeing it as a way to inspire teamwork, community service, and boost self-esteem and morale on the compound I coined the slogan, “We Care Too!” and introduced it to staff. This effort resulted in the inmate population donating tens of thousands of dollars; more than any other federal or state facility. That slogan has been propelled through the BOP to other female institutions. With staff support, I planned, selected an inmate committee, organized, and we [committee] coordinated many inmate donation drives for:
2015 American Cancer Society – Dublin, CA
2015 Susan G. Komen – Dublin, CA
2015 San Francisco Children’s Hospital (Cancer Wing) – Dublin, CA
2008 – 2012 American Cancer Society – Tallahassee, FL
2008 – 2012 Susan G. Komen – Tallahassee, FL
2008 – 2012 The Refuge House; shelter for battered women & children) – Tallahassee, FL
2008 – 2012 The Ronald McDonald House – Tallahassee, FL
2009 – 2010 American Red Cross – Tallahassee, FL (Midwest Tornadoes & Earthquake Haiti)
2009 – 2011 Angel Tree – Tallahassee, FL
In addition to monetary donations, with staff approval and supervision, I urged the women on the compound to work together by donation hundreds of hours of their time making thousands of handcrafted crochet, knit, and leather craft items using their own materials for these different organizations. All of these efforts made the local newspapers and the BOP “Monday Morning Highlights” newsletter.
I pushed for containers to be placed in each housing unit to collect soda can tabs to help support ailing children and their families.
According to Roberta:
Although my heart has always been in the right place, my head was not. I went through some things as a teenager, that no child should ever have to endure. Some of these things I haven’t even discussed with my children because I didn’t want them to have to deal it without me there. It all played a part in some of the very poor choices I made in life. All of which I am very sorry and regretful for.
I’m sure the perception of my past indiscretions would tilt the scale in favor of someone else, but I pray you will hear me and agree that my life is worth saving and allow me to give restorative justice a try. All I need is one chance; just one window of opportunity to open and I guarantee my best efforts at making a difference in people’s lives and contributing to society in a positive way.
I know in my heart that it is my time. I feel like I owe so much, I’m ready to get started. My first inclination is always to help. I pray every day that my life will be used to inspire and change the lives of others. I speak up and share my experiences with sexual assault and trafficking [which I now know manifests itself in many ways] in a way that I wasn’t able to before. It may help someone realize that they are not in a healthy situation, but by-products of a form of trafficking. It has many forms. There was no support for it when I experienced it; there was no term for it, because there was no recognition or awareness. It was just a young girl being “hot” or “fast”. Now I want to be a voice and representative for this movement to help encourage people to speak up, before they find themselves in situations where they are making morally poor choices like myself.
Twenty-two years of incarceration can negatively impact a young woman’s mindset in many ways. My circumstances may indicate that I have every reason to give up hope and not care anymore. But, I haven’t given up and I do care and I won’t stop. There was a time when I was young and angry and felt as if there was no hope. This caused me to encounter a few bumps and scrapes along the way, but after years of reflection and personal grown I turned that mindset around.
In the midst of this madness that has been my life for the last three decades I have developed a new way of thinking and living, more correctly; I’ve made it back to the ways my grandmother gifted me with as a child. God is first in everything. I try to treat people the way I want my children treated in my absence. Anything I say or do must have the potential to make my children and the people that support me and believe in me proud.
I have been able to encourage and convince my fellow prison comrades to pull together, do community service and give back. These are people that are supposed to the the most selfish and uncaring individuals. If I can inspire change in the atmosphere here, I know I can be of service and an example in society.
On this journey I have been blessed with some beautiful people in my life that have helped me become a better person in many ways. I want to pay it forward. There are two instances that stand out as major turning points and I want to share them. The first – When I wanted to put together the first cancer program at Tallahassee, I was talking to the Warden, Paige Augustine running down the list of plans I had. When I finished, she smiled at me and said, “That all sounds impressive, what you need to do Ms. Bell when you write out your proposal is ask for the moon and hope for a star.” A few days later our staff coordinator came with the good news that we in fact had received the moon. 🙂 The second – Iyanla Vanzant came as a guest speaker here in Dublin and I had an opportunity to speak with her. I told her my kids always tell me they forgive me for not being there and they love me, but it’s to the point where I feel like I’m harassing them. First she told me to STOP THAT. If my kids say they forgive me and they love me then that’s just what it is. Accept it. In regards to other areas of my life she said: 1) Govern yourself accordingly. Don’t force yourself on people that don’t love you back. 2) Use my mind, heart, mouth and question from the positive; why things happen as they do in our lives 3) Use these to your benefit your history no longer has power over you. On that day. She changed my life. I haven’t looked back.
There are a lot of people out there that believe incarcerated individuals don’t deserve second chances, opportunities at redemption. They also think that prison reform and re-entry are a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. I want to prove to them that they are wrong. It would only be a waste of time and money if I never get the opportunity to demonstrate what I’ve learned or how much I’ve changed. I would like to be a part of statistical transformation to show that prison and sentencing reform has the ability to be efficient for, both, the non-violent offender as well as an offender (that may not necessarily be violent), with a violent charge.
Lastly, years later here I am again, the best version of me to date with my history powerless over me; my heart and mind full of promise and plans for the future – asking for the moon. Thank you for taking the time to hear me out.